Thursday, July 2, 2015

Those Places Thursday: 87 Years Ago : Angelina Calo embarks on the SS Porto Rico

On June 28, 1927, Angelina Calo walked onto the SS Porto Rico and arrived in New York City five days later. She was 16 years old, and headed for 114 East 119th Street in Manhattan. This was a 3 story multifamily home in Harlem, that served as a boarding house, built in 1920. [1]
114 E 119th Street Manhattan today. Image courtesy Google Maps
 This momentous summer day saw Angelina leave the countryside of Carolina, Puerto Rico for the bustling port of Puerta de Tierra to go aboard the SS. Porto Rico. [2]
Angelina Calo, Line 4- Passenger List, SS Porto Rico

Behind her was a life in rural Puerto Rico as the ship moved away from the edges of the capital in San Juan, and headed for the skyscrapers, tenements and seasons of New York City. Her birth name was Angela, and we knew her as Angelina, Grandma, or Grandma Angie, given that her children and grandchildren were born in New York. Her father, Ventura Calo Birriel was an agricultural laborer, descended from Canary Islanders who arrived in Puerto Rico during the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and settled in Trujillo Bajo.

Ventura Calo Birriel (1882-1970)
His maternal great-grandparents, Leandro Birriel and Maria Gil from the the island of Lanzarote  in the Canary Islands gave birth in 1804 to Domingo Birriel Gil, who later married Maria de Jesus Rodriguez, also of Trujillo Bajo. They are my fourth great-grandparents. Domingo arrived in Puerto Rico about 1806, and established residency in Trujillo in 1836, where he became a ranch owner or farmer. This was an extensive migration of nearly 3,000 persons who emigrated from the Canary Islands during the nineteenth century. [3]  While the precise date that his parents arrived in Puerto Rico is yet unclear, later in life his children managed to populate quite a large area of Carolina, with many descendants in barrio Barrazas. 

On 15 September 1870, Domingo and Maria de Jesus' son, Dionisio Birriel Rodriguez married his first cousin, Estefania Fernandez Rodriguez, daughter of Francisco Fernandez and Gabriela Rodriguez.[4]  For now, Ventura's paternal line only goes back two generations and is probably from the Canary Islands as well. His father, Sotero Calo Medero (1844-1902) was the son of Juan Bautista Calo (ca 1820-bef 1887) and Maria Andrea Medero Mojica (1829-1904). Sotero married Ramona Birriel Fernandez, in 1872.  As one researches the certificates of the Puerto Rico Civil Registrations, one realizes quickly that those with the names Calo, Birriel, Medero, Fernandez, Rodriguez in the Carolina area continued to intermarry over time, a common pattern that speaks to the strategy of retaining an economic base tied to bloodlines.

 As for Angelina's mother, Juliana Vazquez, there are a number of stories, some impossible to document beyond an oral history. Juliana was born to Saturnina Vazquez Rivera, a single mother, who died having her in childbirth, and whose death certificate i've not yet found. Saturnina Rivera Vazquez, a native of Carolina or Guayama, was dead by the time her first granddaughter was born in 1912. Julia lost her first child, Margarita Calo Vazquez, four years old, just months before Angelina was born.[5]  She ultimately divorced Ventura, left for San Juan and Angelina remained in Carolina.
Julia Vazquez Rivera (b. 1892)
  By the end of July 1927, Angelina married Ramon Fernandez Matos in New York City, and became his second wife, and mother to his three children from his first marriage.[6] She worked in the garment industry in Manhattan, then centered around the blocks on the west side of 20th- 30th streets. 
Angelina & Ramon in New York City

As her family grew they dealt with the rise of the Great Depression, and moved countless times in an effort to keep a roof over their children's heads. Ultimately they settled in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx where they lived for over three decades, near Southern Boulevard. 

This is where I and my aunts, uncles and cousins grew up, in tenements built at the turn of the century. These were old buildings with small details that spoke to an earlier time, when the neighborhood was home to immigrants from Central Europe. The once largely Jewish and Polish neighborhood churned once Puerto Ricans arrived just a few decades later, bringing changes in the languages and foods available in the neighborhood.  By the 1970s they moved to a small walk up apartment building in Mount Vernon. 
Angelina died on the anniversary of her arrival in New York City, on July 4, 1988. 
Que En Paz Descanse. Semign kakona guari.

#ThosePlacesThursday - Geneabloggers

1. 114 E 119th Street, Manhattan, NY. Image courtesy of Google Maps.
2. Angela Calo, Line 4, SS Porto Rico sailing from San Juan PR June 28th 1927, Arriving at Port of NY Jul 4 1927. Number 2, 198 [stamped] NY Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Roll T715> 1897-1957 > Roll 4085 image number 344., accessed 6/29/2015
3. Estela Cifre de Loubriel counted some 2733 persons, 2,068 men and 665 women who emigrated, and estimates there were several hundred more who came to the island.  "282. BIRRIEL, Domingo." Estela Cifre de Loubriel, La formacion del pueblo puertorriqueno: La  contribucion de los Isleno-Canarios. San Juan, PR: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe., 43, 261.
4. Nuestra Senora de la Caridad y San Miguel, Trujillo Bajo, Matrimonios, 1859-1862, "Dionisio Birriel con Estebania Fernandez, 15 Septiembre 1870." F38 im 43,
5. Acta defuncion, Margarita Calo Vazquez, 14 Mar 1912, Carolina, Puerto Rico, F237 #237 im 541. Puerto Rico, Civil Registrations, 1885-2001 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. 
6. NYC Marriage Index. Calo, Angelina. 30 Jul 1927, Cert No. 24373 (1927), Manhattan. FHL Film 1653271. Italian Genealogical Group. Accessed 27 Jul 2015.  

© Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, 2015. All rights reserved. 
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